Good Halloween Biotech Read: Frankenstein’s Cat

Cover of "Frankenstein's Cat," by Emily AnthesA very readable, thought-provoking, and balanced look at Halloween biotech, Frankenstein’s Cat emerged from extensive research and interviews with scientists, conservationists, ethicists, and entrepreneurs by science journalist Emily Anthes.

Animal prosthetics, cloning, and animal-machine hybrids comprise most of the stories, with forays into cryogenics and endangered species protection through biotechnology. Genetics, electronics, and computing come alive here in curious and challenging examples of “tinkering with life.”

A sensitive comment from her interview with NPR’s Terry Gross:

“It puts animal welfare and human welfare in conflict. Most thinking, feeling humans, I think, would say that they don’t want animals to suffer, but a lot of us — the majority of Americans — surveys show, also accept some sort of animal research and experimentation. … Most people, for instance, would say that they’re willing to see some mice engineered to get cancer if it cures human cancer, but they’re less willing to see mice suffer if we’re just looking for a cure for baldness. It’s really something we have to tackle on a case-by-case basis based on what the potential benefits for humans are versus the cost to the animals themselves.”

By the way, the “Frankencat” (real name “CC,” for “Carbon Copy”) was cloned at Texas A&M from a cat named Rainbow and adopted as a house cat by veterinarian/physiologist/A&M senior scientist Duane Kraemer, founder of A&M’s Reproductive Sciences Laboratory and part of the cloning team.

When she reached mating age, CC bred with “Smokey.” The Halloween biotech wedding produced four kittens, proving that reproduction was no obstacle for this clone.

You’ll have to read the book to get to the punch line of the cat story. Believe me, it’s worth it. Four and a half stars on Amazon.

  • Winner of 2014 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Best Young Adult Science Book
  • Longlisted for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
  • One of Nature’s Summer Book Picks

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